Outdoor Corner: The Pull

Lyle Johnson
My granddaughter Isabella (Bella) pulling in a bream at an East Ascension Sportsman's League Kids Fishing Rodeo as Paw Paw Sonny looks on.

Flooding to the Amite River basin is a fairly regular occurrence, and I've witnessed everyone that's come our way since I was a kid. My grandfather, Roy Marchand Sr. had a camp on Chinquapin Canal that eventually became our family's camp that afforded me the opportunity to witness them firsthand.

Since obtaining property on the Diversion Canal, those floods regularly rise to the level of water topping the pier, and that means cleanup of river silt. When that occurs the plan is to start cleaning the silt while there is still a few inches of water over the top.

The process starts off with a big warehouse push-broom that easily moves the still-soft silt. Starting from the back the silt moves to the front edge and heads downstream to be deposited somewhere else.

Unfortunately, some of those floods result from hurricanes and other powerful forces of nature. I remember after Hurricane Rita the water had come up about 8" over the pier and six feet up on the grass. It had crested the day before and dropped a few inches, so I could do some cleaning.

The drill was the same. The water was still over the pier but shallow enough for me to take a broom and start removing the half-inch of silt that had been deposited from the muddy water.

As I pushed the silt over the edge, I watched it get caught in the current and head downriver towards Blind River. But this time I thought about where it might end up. The next body of water would be Lake Maurepas. Next comes Lake Ponchartrain, then the Rigolets, and then the Gulf of Mexico.

That provoked a bit of a daydream as I remembered back as a kid when I figured you could travel anywhere in the world from Bayou Francois, right in the middle of the town of Gonzales as we pulled bluegills from the water.

I never dreamed that one day I would be fishing in that same Gulf of Mexico and "the pull" that fishing and the outdoors would have on my life: duck hunting, shrimping, picking oysters from the water bottoms, trolling for blue marlin, catching tuna, wahoo, king mackerel, and bull dolphin. Other opportunities such as surf fishing, crabbing, catching specs, and redfish came along.

Further out in the gulf we would bottom fish around the rigs and catch four-pound croakers and white trout, red and mangrove snapper, along with many other species.

Back upstream from my pier "the pull" would be no different in my favorite fishing spot, the Amite River: bass, bream, and sac-a-lait caught with my dad from my youth until he left for a better place. I recall fishing with trot lines along with rod and reel for catfish and bringing them home for mama to cook.

Daddy fished for catfish commercially so I joined in with him before I got married and once after when work got a little slow. That was hard work as we had to catch enough bait each day for 14 lines with about 400 hooks we baited three or four times each morning. We kept eight crab traps baited as well with catfish and caught all the crabs we could eat.

Of course my attraction to the outdoors was on hard, dry ground as well. My dad would take us six boys hunting back in the day that just deepened "the pull." Then passing along "the pull" by teaching my son the same love for the outdoors and his mama frying the fish we caught and cooking the game that we killed. That pull has been passed on to my grandchildren as well.

Isn't it ironic that the vibrant thing that makes the place we live so appealing to us, having the same pull on millions of other sportsmen, also attracts the forces of nature that can bring death and destruction to humans and wildlife alike?

Way too often, there's a storm that comes through and wreaks havoc on our lives in many ways. For a few years the talk and experiences still keep the memories fresh in our minds. Our last occurred in 2016 with the flood.

This time it will probably last longer than other times, but eventually it will begin to fade for some. Some will pass away and new people will take their place and the pull of what makes our state the "Sportsman's Paradise" will rise again.

Things will return to normal as the boat launches and bait shops open up again. People will be fishing, hunting, and enjoying nature in general. New camps will be built, and kids and grandkids will be running around and even playing on the beaches that will be rebuilt.

One of the things that never ceases to amaze me is the resilience of human nature. They hold on, cry, agonize over the tragedies but put a smile on their faces to pick up the pieces and put the puzzle back together again to end up stronger for the experience.

If we live long enough, calamity in nature will happen again. And if it doesn't happen to us, it will be our turn to be the group that helps those stricken make it through.

Moving on, the 13th Annual Grand Isle Ladies Rodeo will be held on Columbus Day Weekend October 11 and 12 at Bridgeside Marina. The entry fee of $20 includes a rodeo hat and/or visor, rodeo ticket, entry for door prizes, reception, dinner, and dance on Saturday night.

Tickets are available at Bridgeside Marina and at the Tourist Center, located at the Grand Isle Port Commission office next to the Butterfly Dome. Fish weigh in will be held both Friday and Saturday nights.

This year's rodeo will again support the Wig Room at the Lady of the Sea Hospital, The Hope Lodge in New Orleans, Mary Bird Perkins Cancer Center at TGMC in Houma and Thibodaux Regional Cancer Center. Our goal is to promote Breast Cancer Awareness and Prevention with another donation.

The Grand Isle Ladies Fishing Rodeo Committee is encouraging team fishing, so get a group of friends together to "fish the ditches" or charter a boat to fish. Design a team shirt or decorate the official rodeo hat and win the special "Fishing Fashion Award" as a team. Call 985-787-2229 or email: gicdt985@gmail.com.

To be eligible for the award, register your team name and members at the Rodeo ticket booth during the rodeo or at the Tourist Center prior to the rodeo. Winners must be present and wearing the team costume, shirt, or decorated rodeo cap Saturday night. So remember to keep the slack out and set the hook hard. Have fun in the outdoors, be safe, and may God truly bless you!

Lyle Johnson is a free-lance writer, co-host of Ascension Outdoors TV and Curator of the Louisiana State Fish Records. He can be contacted at reelman@eatel.net.

Outdoor Calendar

EASL Monthly Meeting: 3rd Monday every month, East Ascension Sportsman's League meeting held at Gonzales Fire Dept on Orice Roth Rd. starting at 7:00 p.m. A meal served and special speaker will be in attendance.

Squirrel & Rabbit Season: Oct. 5-Feb. 29, open statewide on private lands only. Daily bag limit 8 and possession limit 24.

Paddle Away: OCT. 6-8 at 11 a.m., Highland Road Boat Launch, Baton Rouge. Fee $10-$12. Call BREC 225-272-9200. Email: outdooradventure@brec.org. Website: webtrac.brec.org.

Grand Isle Ladies Fishing Rodeo: OCT. 11-12 at Bridge Side Marina, Grand Isle. Call 985-787-2229. Email: gicdt985@gmail.com.

Geaux Fish Catfish Rodeo: OCT. 12 at 7:30-11:30 a.m. at Burbank Soccer Complex Pond, Burbank Drive, Baton Rouge. Pond will be stocked with adult catfish. Prizes. Catfish must be taken home. Oct. 10 preregistration deadline. website: brec.org/geauxfish. Call BREC 225-272-9200.

Need an event publicized? Contact Lyle at reelman@eatel.net